Return to Sender.

I’ll bet you’re thinking this is about Elvis.

It’s not, but rest assured that his 1962 hit “Return to Sender” is now stuck in my head, too.

As Brian and I were hauling my Christmas decor out of the garage and into the house, I spotted the back of a sealed envelope on the floor and wondered what it was.  From year to year, I try to keep the Christmas cards that I receive in the mail.  It just makes it easier to keep track of addresses and to be sure that I’m not forgetting someone who might’ve been so kind as to have remembered me.

But then… why was it still sealed?

As I picked it up and turned it over, I realized.

Oh.  Oh yeah, that’s because I chose not to open this one.

This was no Christmas card.

Return to Sender

Brian saw the card in my hand, my disappointed face and piped up, “I wish you’d throw that away.”

But for some reason… I don’t know, I like to keep it as a reminder that I tried.

You see, this was the last contact that I had with my dad.  It feels like it’s been decades, but as the stamp states, this was in February of 2009, just shy of five years ago.

At my salon, we’re very big into celebrating birthdays.  It makes it fun to come to work.  All day long, enshrouded by balloons and crazy birthday themes, clients and coworkers alike are sing-songing their happy birthdays.  Every once in a while you see flowers or the ever-coveted Edible Arrangements delivered and, yet again, it’s an exciting, public display of birthday acknowledgement.

So back in 2009, I thought that I’d surprise my dad by sending his birthday card to work.  I had imagined that perhaps he’d try to let his birthday slip by unnoticed, but that whoever delivered his piece of mail would discover the occasion and wish him a happy birthday.

Okay, just being honest here, this was a hard card to pick out.  Have you ever tried to find a card for someone whom you don’t exactly admire?  As I’ve mentioned before (here), my dad wouldn’t have even scored honorable mention in parenting.  No, more like a ribbon for participating and that’s it.  He left a lot to be desired.  And given my propensity for the truth, word choice on these cards was relatively important to me.  So, no, I wasn’t going to send some “Happy-Birthday-to-the-Best-Father-that-ever-Existed” nonsense.  But, yes, I was going to acknowledge him and wish him well.  I recall spending a lot of time at that store as it wasn’t exactly easy finding something that wasn’t overly complimentary.

Then I took a few minutes to personalize my sentiments a bit, trying to be more intentional, sending more than my signature.

But a few days later, I received the whole letter back in my mailbox.  At the time, I completely melted down, utterly crumpling under the rejection (yet again).  First of all, it was unopened.  (Talk about feeling worthless!)  Secondly, as I looked a little closer, I realized that my dad had originally written his dramatic “RETURN TO SENDER” in gray marker.  Evidently that was too subtle, so he carefully overlaid his message with a bolder, black marker.

What a jerk thing to do.

Why would a father return a birthday card to his daughter?  There are any number of reasons.  He’s a fairly paranoid man with incredibly unrealistic relational demands, so I imagine I “crossed a line” by not mailing this to his home address.

(Not exactly the type of unconditional relationship for which one would find worth fighting, right?)

This envelope has wandered all around my house for almost five years.  I don’t remember exactly what sent it to the garage, but here it is again.  I thought that while I was writing this, I could open the envelope in front of you, my readers, and reflect on the contents therein.

Birthday front

Message inside

It reads:

Happy Birthday, Dad.  

I’ll always be your princess.

I sure hope you’re doing well.  It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you.  I enjoyed Superbowl Sunday with your side of the family.  The day was almost perfect except that you weren’t there.  Please stay a part of my life.  It would be good to see you more often.  I love you!

Holy XOXO’s,

Suzanna Banana Boat

Yep, that sounds like me.  (He gave me that nickname.)  To this day, unless his brothers or sister have told him, I’m not even sure if my dad knows that Bennett even exists.  Rest assured, my face is quite dry right now.  No tears.  Just acceptance.  The Lord has been so good, so merciful and so generous to us that in spite of the fact that Bennett doesn’t “have” this particular grandfather, this child will know no lack of love thanks to everyone else in his life.

We are so loved and I am so grateful.

In 19 days, I’ll be mentally acknowledging the 25th anniversary of the day that my dad walked out on our family.  To this day, those actions still confound me.  What a sobering reminder that our personal decisions create giant ripple effects in the hearts of those around us!  Be prayerful, be cautious and pursue holiness!  Let us outdo one another in love!


  1. December 3, 2013

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  2. December 3, 2013

    Wow! What a beautiful story. Every decision we make has a consequence. Too bad that your dad does not know you and your beautiful loving family. Hugs to you.

  3. December 3, 2013

    One of the best things my grandparents ever told me was to let go of everything negative, be it a report card or a bad memory, and to keep everything positive… like love letters. Taking their words to heart I now have a big box of love and kindness I keep with me like hoarded golden treasure. It has brightened many a gloomy day. This **beautiful** card is something he should have kept, and you can now let go. It’s out there in the ethers of the internet for the world to see, and you did good by him. xo

  4. December 3, 2013
    Aunt Ethelyn

    Just now reading this as we’ve been in Mobile with family for Thanksgiving. I can hardly type for the tears. You are such a marvelous person–I showed this to Lavelle–He said, “JERK!!!” That pretty much sums it up.

  5. December 3, 2013
    Laura Stone

    Suzy, you are incredibly strong and kind. Thank you for sharing that and I really want to give you a hug!

  6. December 3, 2013
    Aunt Patti

    Your mother did a amazing job with you guys. I brag about you guys all the time. I’ve been so mad at your so called father for a long time. Back when you and mandy were little your uncle and I would come visit all the time. I have to tell you I told your uncle that I didn’t want to come to your home anymore. I didn’t like the way he treated you girls or your mom for that matter. As I send this letter to you I can’t help but to think of chasity. Her dad doesn’t have anything to do with her. I told her I didn’t think her father was capable of loving. It hurts maybe that’s true for your dad too. All I know is that you guys are amazing I’m very proud to know you. I will always be here for you guys. Tell your mom she can hold her head high. Love always your aunt patti

  7. December 4, 2013

    Some choices we make are so sad. Your Dad made one of those years ago and chooses to compound it even when you try to open a door.

    So, he remains unbelievably ignorant of what joys life could bring.

  8. What at first seeems like a terribly ironic day to have to celebrate your dad walking out on you — on second thought seems so redeeming and fitting, for we celebrate a Heavenly Father who walked into space and time and embraced us with a stubborn and eternal love that will never let us go.

    Love to you, your Mama, your siblings and your little family. Merry Christmas!

  9. December 5, 2013
    Aunt Manny

    You know my thoughts on this. We were better off the moment he walked out that door. I just wish he would’ve made a clean break and never looked back. I wish he would have left us alone. The emotional roller coaster ride was ridiculous. I feel sorry for him. I have forgiven him and whilst he is still holding his grudges towards me, I will bestow grace upon him should we ever talk again. The whole thing makes me super grateful for Charley and my heavenly father! I’m so glad that God worked things out together for our good. God is so good! I cannot imagine what it would’ve been like had he stayed. Our poor mother. *shudders*

  10. December 6, 2013

    just seeing this myself

    my only observation is that if this fool hadn’t walked out of your lives, you might never had Charley in your lives.

    in the end, you’re the ones who’ve won

  11. March 17, 2014

    I know you have mentioned your faith, in God and it must have been hard to acknowledge Him ( The Lord)as father. But you have! And what an assurance,that we have a father, that loves the unlovely, gives everything to the worthless, loves us unconditionally, and to u saving that card, shows your unconditional love for your earthly father, even though ( his loss) doesn’t choose to respond to you.
    Saving that card, is hanging on to heart ache, but showing your children, that you love…… Inspite of…..
    And a reminder to continue to pray for your father, and pray that you might be reunited, but pray that he will find God ( because he can’t know God if he is rejecting you) he will find God, I’ll be praying for you!

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